Anthropology of Healing

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
ANTH 2220
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Course Designation
Certificate in Global Competency
Industry Designation
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
An introductory consideration of medical/healing beliefs and practices cross-culturally, especially in non-Western/non-state societies. This course also considers the healing process itself.
Course Content
  1. History and scope of medical anthropology; medicine and culture.
  2. The body as cultural document: anatomy, physiology and explanations of biology; explanation as myth, explanation as science.
  3. Good food, bad medicine; bad food, good medicine: culture and nutrition.
  4. Social systems and medical care; core clinical functions; roles and specialists; diagnosis and divination; illness categories.
  5. The first healers: shamans and the shamanistic complex.
  6. Doctor/healer, patient/client: the healing relationship in the context of culture.
  7. Sex, gender and reproduction: the physical body and the social body; birthing as a cultural phenomenon.
  8. Pain in the body, pain in the mind, pain in the society: culture and the experience of pain.
  9. Leaf, vine and root: ethnopharmacology and the production of "medicines".
  10. The grannery has fallen: human lives and the production of meaning.
  11. Abandonment, abuse and personal identity in social interaction; childhood patterns, adult situations.
  12. The validity of psychological categories cross-culturally; illness and behaviour; cultural patterns, individual lives.
  13. Stress and the body: simple societies and stress, complex societies and stress, cultural control of stress reactions.
Learning Activities

The course will involve the use of a number of instructional methods to achieve its objectives, including the following:  lectures, seminars, presentations and films as appropriate and useful.

Means of Assessment

Assessment will be in accord with the Douglas College student evaluation policy.  Specific components

of evaluation will include some of the following: exams consisting of short answer questions and essay questions; research paper; seminar presentations; participation in class discussions.

Specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor at the beginning of the semester and will vary according to the instructor’s assessment of appropriate evaluation methods.

An example of one evaluation scheme:

Essay assignment  40%
Mid-term examination       20%
Final examination  30%
Participation  10%
Total 100%



Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the student will be able to:

  1. Discuss the scope and focus of Medical Anthropology
  2. Describe the relationship of traditional medical systems to modern clinical practices, their comparisons and contrasts.
  3. Compare and contrast the roles of traditional healers and modern biomedical practitioners.
  4. Discuss Shamanism and the Shamanic complex as major elements in traditional healing practices around the World.
  5. Describe the basic nutritional needs of human beings and explain how culture influences definitions of what is food and not food.
  6. Explain the concept of mental illness in relation to culture and belief.
  7. Discuss the concept of stress and cultural forms of stress management, as well as the long-term effects of stress on the body and mind.
Textbook Materials

Possible textbooks and materials to be Purchased by Students

McElroy, A. & Townsend, P.  (2004).  Medical Anthropology: An Ecological Perspective (4th edition).

        San Francisco:  Westview Press.

Maté, G.  (2003).  When the Body Says ‘No’: The Cost of Hidden Stress.  NY and Toronto:  A.Knopf., Ltd.



ANTH 1100 or permission of Instructor


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for ANTH 2220
Camosun College (CAMO) CAMO ANTH 270 (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU ANTH 2163 (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG ANTH 1500 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU SA 218 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU ANTH 2XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU ANTH 2XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO ANTH 2nd (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV ANTH 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC ANTH 201 (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV ANTH 1XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC ANTH 2XX (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU ANTH 2nd (3)

Course Offerings

Winter 2023